After a slumber following the Great Recession, North Port is assuming a prominent position in Sarasota County. Evidenced by the whir of commercial construction, widening roads, an exciting housing market, and increased amenities coming down the pipe, the excitement is palpable. Add in a couple of powerhouse projects that have long been discussed without much progress, in the past, but now have a seemingly unstoppable momentum, and you have a city that cannot be stopped.
Amassing, roughly, 75 square miles, North Port is the largest city in Sarasota County. Not being situated on the water, the city has struggled to find its niche in an area rich with tourist-attracting attributes. Garnering a reputation for being difficult for new business owners and developers to work with, and mired in murky deals like the purchase of Warm Mineral Springs, which publicized city and county commissioners often duking it out on social media, there is a sense that the time for North Port’s change is now. A few newly-elected commissioners seem to be breathing life and resolution into issues that were previously bogged down in debate.
So, what is happening in North Port? For starters, the housing market is on fire. According to Mike DeMaio, longtime resident of North Port and owner of 3D Realty Group, “To me, the most exciting aspect of what is happening here in North Port is the overall growth of our community, from the Braves to WaWa, every new piece of infrastructure makes North Port more and more enticing to young families and retirees alike. We are seeing the fruits of this through the higher home values and wider selection of home builders. Couple that with the excitement that surrounds our city, in general, and it gives homeowners the feeling that these values reflect how great a place North Port is to be, and not just a theoretical housing bubble that could pop at that time.” That sentiment seems to be echoed up and down U.S. 41, and main corridors like Price Boulevard, Sumter Boulevard, and Toledo Blade Boulevard, where almost weekly, new businesses are sprouting up.
Corporations like WaWa, 7-11, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Popeyes and others are putting stakes down, in and around North Port, betting on the city’s bright future. Suncoast Technical Institute, under construction on the corner of Cranberry and Toledo Blade is expected to be completed this fall and will offer a variety of programs for students and adults and will also include a state-of-the-art conference center and library. The ultra-busy Coco Plum Plaza radiates as an example to future developers of how necessary these businesses are to residents. Just drive through the parking lot on any given evening and you will be hard-pressed to find parking spots due to local popular eateries like Five Guys Burgers and Kumo, not to mention strong retail anchors like Publix, Pet Supermarket and Hobby Lobby.
In a recent U.S. Census Bureau report out last month, North Port takes the lead in population growth in Sarasota County with a 3.5% annual growth rate. Families moving here are buoyed by the news a $12 million aquatics center is in the works and initial plans have been approved by the North Port City Commission. The facility is proposed to feature a lazy river, lap pool, children’s play area, teen slides, and more. The other hot topic in North Port is the relocation of the Atlanta Braves to the West Villages area with a brand-new spring training stadium complex. This $80 million project would be paid for by Sarasota County, the West Villages development company, and Florida’s Spring Training Retention Fund, along with possible contributions from North Port of $300,000 a year for the next 30 years. North Port City Commissioners will take this issue up again during its budget review process this summer. Benefits to residents will include use of the 8,000-seat facility for several city and county sponsored events to be held throughout the year when the stadium is not being used by the Braves. The completion date of the proposed aquatics center and new stadium is estimated for 2019.
North Port is not only back, but back with a building vengeance and ready to lead a commanding presence in Sarasota County. Here, you will find families longing for entertainment, dining, and cultural outlets, who are thrilled at the idea of waterslides and baseball games for their kids. An involved group of eco-conscious residents helps maintain focus on the preservation of expansive, green areas and inspires unique projects like the 40 fruit trees planted at Garden of the Five Senses for the benefit of all. Historically significant sites like Warm Mineral Springs whose waters boast the highest mineral content in the United States and third highest on the planet and Little Salt Springs, whose unearthed treasures have yielded proof of life in this area long before thought possible, are also found here. North Port is on the verge of a massive renewal and expansion, hopefully accentuating and protecting the old, along with thoughtfully unfolding the new. It will be a fun journey to witness.
Photos courtesy of City of North Port Facebook Page